They say to be a writer, you just have to write. But if you've ever tried to "just write," you know it can be easier said than done. Perhaps you've got a great story to tell and you've already done a slew of research and character development, but you're overrun by the sheer volume of random index cards and sticky notes strewn across your writing area. Writing software can help you organize your notes, fill in the gaps and really pull your story together.
Perhaps you've only got a kernel of an idea, but you know it's a gem. With writing guides for character and story development, software for writers can help you shape your kernel into a story worth telling. And maybe you've just recently caught the writing bug: you want to write, but you're not sure what. Some of the applications also provide random writing prompts which will both jump-start your creativity and circumvent your writer's block. This software won't write your story for you, and it won't edit your writing, but it will help you organize your ideas and develop your storytelling skills.
Our top picks, WriteItNow, Writer's DreamKit and Power Writer, can help you do all this, and more. In our comparison you'll also find reviews of other applications that may meet your needs, as well as articles about writing software, including Get Published: Some Simple Advice. Our aim here is to compare beginner writing products, and most of the novel writing software packages we reviewed are designed to assist budding authors. If you're interested in more complex, professional programs, see our reviews of creative writing software.
The writing process can be an individual and personal one. So, the software that's right for you will depend on what you want to accomplish with it and how you prefer to work. Do you need a structured environment to push you toward your end result, or do you work better with more freedom to explore ideas and make connections? The best applications allow you to do both, but each program is definitely geared toward one end or the other. For example, WriteItNow allows for a high degree of note taking and linking ideas, while Writer's DreamKit provides very structured question-and-answer writing guidance.
The best writing software allows you to write, organize and learn all in one place. For our reviews, we looked at the organizational and word processing features of each software package, as well as the guidance each program gives to aspiring writers, including general writing help and specific character and story development assistance.
Some products have fully functional word processing capabilities, including a spell checker and the ability to format text any way you'd like. Other programs allow you instead to type and brainstorm within the program and then export your writing to a word processor of your choice. Top book writing software gives you the option to see your story organized graphically – such as in a storyboard view or a color-coded timeline. Also look for access to basic writing tools like a dictionary and thesaurus. Features that allow you to keep notes on research and ideas (and then link those notes to your text) help keep you organized and make sure that all your brilliant ideas are easy to retrieve.
Software for aspiring or beginning writers should include a lot of instruction and assistance. In some programs, this help takes the form of general tips on writing, story structure, character development, dialogue, etc. Other software takes a question-and-answer approach by asking you to respond to specific questions about your story and characters. Some novel writing software will even suggest a detailed story structure based on the answers to your questions or the type (or genre) of story you'd like to write.
Our top products also have extensive character development tools. In addition to random name generators, they include in-depth questions about your characters' attributes and motivations, as well as the ability to assign story roles to each character. Some applications allow you to assign graphics to each character, to give you a visual representation while you're writing. Organizing all that information about your characters in one place helps you keep your characters' actions grounded in who they are – which makes for more believable characters and a story that rings true.
Ease of Use
In addition to helpful features and useful writing guides, your writing software should be relatively simple to use. Navigation should be straightforward and the organizational features should be usable and intuitive. All the fancy features in the world won't matter if you are unable to manage them. Your software should be a tool to help you write; using it should facilitate, not interrupt, your creativity.
Help & Support
Look for help files within the program that teach you how to use it effectively. Additionally, just in case something goes wrong, it's important that the publisher offers contact information. Most provide contact via email, and some include a phone number for customer service or technical support.
The software for writers that we reviewed is aimed at helping beginning writers get organized, as well as develop their story ideas and writing skills. As you compare beginner writing products, you'll find that there's a piece of writing software that will meet your needs. The best writing software for you will depend on how you like to work and the kind of story development help you're seeking. The more organized and thoughtful you are about your storytelling, the more you'll write. And we all know that to be a writer, you have to write.